EU Policies in the Arab World: Update and Critical Assessment

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Series Details Volume 21, Number 2, Pages 227-249
Publication Date 2016
ISSN 1384-6299
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This article provides an update and critical assessment of EU action in the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA), a region frequently referred as to the European Southern Neighbourhood. It examines the different instruments and approaches, which are put at work by a variety of institutional actors (EU Commission, Directorate-Generals (DGs), Development Cooperation (DEVCO), EU’s Humanitarian Office (ECHO) and Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR); as well as the EEAS and the Member States), and which in their combination are shaping the EU’s MENA policy.

The particular focus is on the politico-organizational interplay between the EU’s institutional architecture, and the effects of EU policies on the political order in the Middle-East and the ArabWorld. The questions are: What can we reasonably expect from EU external action in MENA? Does EU foreign policy-making at all affect power and governance structures in the MENA region? To what extent, and under what conditions is the EU likely to contribute to promoting democracy and stability?

Adopting a case study research strategy, the article analyses the design and implementation of individual policy issues in the areas of security, crisis management, international cooperation and development, and studies the effects thereof in three countries within the region. Based on document review, interviews with policy makers and direct observation, taking into account the local context in recipient countries, as well as the regional and geopolitical dimension, the article contributes to empirical research on EU action in a global hotspot area, undergoing turbulence and violent transformation.

Results point to an overstrained Europe, ill-prepared underperforming in the face of the colossal challenges in a radically transformed socio-political and security context. The consequence has been a series of uncoordinated ad-hoc actions by individual member states and the general sense of disunity.

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